Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Our Dairy Free Favorites

When C was diagnosed with an allergy to milk seven years ago, we were totally confused and overwhelmed. We basically had to learn a whole new way to cook and eat. Since everything that C eats must be completely dairy free, I've spent a lot of time poring over ingredient lists and trying to figure out where I can stock up on safe foods. I'm not sure if he'll ever outgrow this allergy. I hope he does for his sake. Sitting on the side, eating his own snack while everyone else is gorging on cake and pizza, is C's norm at birthday parties. While I hate that he has to do this, I am grateful for all the milk-free foods that exist.  Here's a list of some of our favorite brands; my ode to the foods that make our dairy free life possible! While some of these products can be found in regular grocery stores, we do make special trips to Whole Foods to buy several of them.

1) Silk vanilla soymilk. While they will drink other soy milks, my boys think this is the best tasting variety out there! This is what they drink daily and also what we substitute for cow's milk in recipes. It definitely helps that we can buy a 3 pack for a reasonable price at Costco since dairy free/vegan food is typically much more expensive.

2) Earth Balance natural buttery spread. Despite the name, this is a completely dairy free vegan margarine. Before C was diagnosed with a milk allergy, I had no idea that most margarines actually contain milk. This one tastes great and comes in both tub and stick form, making it super easy to substitute into recipes. Our fridge is always well stocked with this.

3) Whole Soy & Co yogurts. Like with margarine, I was shocked to find out that many "soy" yogurts, including those made by Stonyfield farms and other major brands actually contain milk protein, and are unsafe for people with milk allergies. These yogurts have become our favorites, with great flavors like apricot-mango and key lime as well as all the standard ones.

4) Cherrybrook Kitchen cake & frosting mixes. I cannot say enough about these mixes!!! I use these cake and frosting mixes to make all of our birthday cakes and they honestly taste delicious! People have no idea that it is a dairy free cake. And these mixes are free of eggs and nuts as well, so they are also great for birthday party cupcakes where there may be kids with multiple other allergies. I try to always have a few boxes of these in the pantry because I cannot always find them in stores. This fall, I actually ordered a case of our favorite chocolate cake mix directly from the company to be sure I would have enough for all the upcoming birthdays. That's how much we love these products!

5) Daiya cheese. This vegan cheese is a relatively new discovery for us. As is the running theme of this post, many "soy" cheeses actually contain milk protein to make the cheese melt and stretch more like dairy cheese. So for a long time we avoided soy cheese altogether. I eventually discovered some vegan cheese slices, but Daiya was the first shredded cheese we ever found. This is definitely one of the better vegan cheeses out there because it does melt well. We use it to make homemade macaroni & cheese and pizza. It has a sweeter taste than dairy cheese, but the boys still love it. And it's so nice to be able to let C enjoy some of these classic childhood favorites in a safe way.

6) Tyson & Kirkland brand chicken nuggets. Most chicken nuggets have milk in the breading, but these two typically do not. I buy big bags of these at Costco. Even kids with allergies love everything in nugget form!  Not the healthiest food of course, but these are great to microwave up and serve with veggies for a quick dinner.  Since most prepared & frozen foods have milk, butter, or cheese in them, having a quick cook staple in the freezer is essential!

7) Tofutti ice creams. My boys love these soy ice cream sandwiches and cones and they are one of our favorite warm weather treats. We've tried their "Better than cream cheese" spread on bagels and that is quite tasty too.

8) Amy's kitchen no cheese and vegan margherita pizza. My boys love to eat pizza, and these are a nice staple to have in the freezer for nights where I don't feel like cooking. Again, one has to carefully check the ingredients of all of these pizzas, as the Amy's kitchen soy cheese pizza does contain milk. But the vegan pizza is actually made with Daiya cheese so that and the no cheese variety are both dairy free.

9) Kashi cereal bars. Granola/cereal bars are another staple childhood snack, but most of them contain milk. I was so happy when I discovered these! I try to always keep a box in the car since they are perfect for on the go snacks.

10) Oreos, Honey Maid Graham Crackers, Wheat Thins, Triscuits, Snyders mini Pretzels. These are some easy to find dairy free snacks that can be bought almost anywhere.

****I always read ingredient labels each time I shop and then again each time I open a package at home, even for these products that I buy regularly.  For serious food allergies, this is the safest method, since product ingredients can change at any time.****

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